Thursday, December 5, 2013

RR The Flash

To celebrate the return of Barry Allen on TV (on this week's episode of Arrow), let me take you back to the past...

To an era of 1990s fashion and Tim Burton-esque super-hero drama.

The Flash: The Fastest Man Alive!

Name: The Flash: The Complete Series
Created by Danny Bilson & Paul De Meo
Original run 1990-91
Genre Science-fiction drama

Debuting in 1990, fresh of Tim Burton's Batman film, The Flash was a live drama series based on DC Comics' classic Silver Age character.

It was greatly inspired by the very successful Batman (the same way nowadays Arrow followed up on Nolan' s Dark Knight flicks), ) to capitalize on the same noir tone and look of this reinterpretation of a classic comic book character.

The writing team of Danny Bilson & Paul De Meo developed the series for Warner Bros. Television which produced it for CBS.

Some allusions were made to the first Flash, Jay Garrick, and the third "current" one as well, fan favorite Wally West  here and there, through the show.

Creature maker Stan Winston built the costume, simply directly based on the classic Barry Allen comics, although slightly modernized here and there.

The series took place in a Central City that here in context looked more like a smaller Gotham City, with the same lightning and architecture. It was somewhat realistic to some extend, but they didn't bother tying up the show with actual dates. Like in Batman, the streets were often filled with antique cars despite 1990s computers and other technology popping up on screen. Giving it an almost comic book-ysh timeless setting.

The show followed Barry Allen.

Barry is a much more lighthearted character than the show might make you think. He's not such a know-it-all grumpy serious figure as Bruce Wayne or the sometimes-perfect mild-mannered Clark Kent, he's just a simpler guy. Coming across funnier and more down to Earth.

Barry Allen works at the Central City Police Department, helping solve crimes from the labs thanks to his mind rather than on the field like his father and brother who are cops. He's friend with a co-worker and another scientist there, Julio Mendez. Perhaps his only friend.

At the start of the show his girlfriend Iris West, and artist, moves out to Paris. (since she's not only a recurring character bot a major one in the comics, I can only guess she would have come back had the show gone further)

One late night at the Police Lab, Barry is struck by a bolt of lightning as the nearby shelf of chemicals collapse over him. The rest is... history.

Mysteriously granted with super speed powers, Barry is now able to move and think at super-speed!

Meanwhile, his brother his killed by criminals (might I add, years before writer Geoff Johns decided to give him a murdered mother storyline).

Barry meets a scientist at S.T.A.R. Labs., Dr. Christina McGee.

Barry will have to discover his new found powers little by little. This is not the experimented veteran superhero from the comics. He can't run at the speed of light yet, he is for now merely trying to break the sound barrier.

He dons a red prototype suit for friction at super speed, and becomes The Flash: The fastest man alive!

Starring John Wesley Shipp as Barry Allen and Amanda Pays as his co-star Tina McGee,
the show started with a gritty tone focused on Barry's on-going problems with his powers and facing regular mobsters and criminals. John Wesley Shipp proved to be a great lead.

Then, little by little more and more colorful super villains appeared on the show over the rest of its run.

The Flash would quickly get several familiar and new faces from his Rogues gallery. Such as James Montgomery Jesse aka The Trickster, "Leonard Wynters" Captain Cold, "Sam Scudder" Mirror Master, the deadly Nightshade inspired by an  old 1950s vigilante going by the same name, The Ghost and even a Blue Speedster clone named Pollux! There would even be some hints at other famous villains such as Gorilla Grodd (though I have no idea how they could have tried bringing this one on the screen..).

The Flash lasted for 22 episodes of its single season, from 1990 to 1991. All collected in the above-pictured Complete Series DVDS set.

Comic book scribe Howard Chaykin wrote several episodes and worked on the show.

The surprise hit was Mark Hamill now classic interpretation of the Flash villain the Trickster.

Even though nowadays he mostly does voice acting, the Trickster was a brilliant post-Star Wars performance for Hamill people tend to forget these days. The fantastic finale "Trial of the Trickster" is well worth a look on its own. A role not that far from how Hamill would take on the Joker on Batman: The Animated Series. The inimitable Mark Hamill would also reprise the role of the Trickster on cartoons later on. Perfect. Fitting.

The Flash also introduced a sidekick for Trickster that left sort of-an impression on the larger DC Universe, despite never making the jump from TV to comics. The daughter of a toy company CEO would fall in love with the Trickster and don the suit he forced on an hostage the previous episode. She would become Prank! Prank, as played by the lovely Corinne Bohrer is said to have been the basis, the inspiration behind Harley Quinn who would go on appearing first on the Batman: The Animated Series along Mark Hamill's Joker. She's madly in love with the Trickster, despite him not returning her love, merely using her funds or schemes for his own gain. The same Harley/Joker relation dynamic.

The Scarlet Speedster really comes to life in this great intriguing and captivating show, with a great atmosphere, vibrant and well contrasted colors and all-around perfect cinematography.

Despite all of the goofiness inherent to the genre, this scifi superhero show was still somewhat  grounded in reality, what many current movies and TV series struggle to do and more often kinda fail to do in my eyes.

Part silly, other parts showing a lot more potential, but in the end always plenty of fun.

The show featured some great writing and a great direction as well, based on a premise that could end up kinda goofy on the first look, but it actually works (more so than, say, Smallville in my eyes). The Flash was made into a badass "real" superhero on screen from its core concept to the execution of the costume, maybe the only one of its kinda in years (you can argue that the Iron Man suit is actually more faithful but that was more of a mech look than a traditional superhero "super costume").

The show used a huge budget to keep as much cinematic quality as possible.. which prompted its early death. Sadly, it costed too much, it was too expensive for TV at the time, to produce the same overall quality week after week. The network pulled the plug after a single first season.

Most episodes of the show usually started on a crime prologue, which Barry would try to solve during the course of the episodes. As the series progressed it became more of a villain-of-the-week affair.

Some villains were kinda cheesy, but they tried to pull off interesting and original creative ways to introduce those characters. Or reimagine them, such as the quite unique Captain Cold, the best live action Mister Freeze we ever got.

The Flash had some great humor, often at Barry's expense as he tried to make use of his superpowers on his everyday life.

Barry Allen's "kryptonite" was that he needed to keep an eye on his blood sugar, since super speed used so much energy.

The opening theme was composed by Danny Elfman. The fantastic score was created thanks to the combined effort of Elfman and series composer Shirley Walker. Also very reminiscent of Batman, it was epic and orchestral at times.

The problem was... it was too expensive. The special effects cost a lot, and with more and more of the Rogues showing up as the series progressed...

The show was canned without a remorse from the studios.

Overall, it was a great show while it lasted!

The Flash's always been one of my favorite superhero character. When he's well used he can be as fun as a Spider-man, also granted powers due to a science-fiction-ysh accident.

It might sound strange, but this TV series was probably without any doubt my own first exposure to the character back then, a character I always ignored before the show.

As a kid I loved this series to pieces and tried to catch it whenever it aired here on TV locally. Before discovering internet much later on, and finding the truth about the series... I could have swear there were more seasons or at least a dozen more episodes or so! But alas...

The show is now available as a "Complete Series" set these days, since it only lasted one season after all.

A comic book-inspired spinoff series was launched through DC Comics. As well as a video game based on this live series for Game Boy in 1991 and a second title by Probe for the Master System in 1993 (yes, after the end of the series).

Series creators Danny Bilson and Paul DeMeo would go on writing for the actual 2007 The Flash comic book series starring the Bart Allen incarnation of the Scarlet Speedster.

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Plastic-trophies!

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